Down Dog Downtown

At the end of a long day, there are plenty of reasonable excuses for skipping a workout: fatigue, evening plans, a growling stomach or simple laziness. But for eight weeks this summer, the cost of a fitness class won’t be one of them.

Free evening exercise classes at Huntington Park’s main plaza, the Spokane Tribal Gathering Place, begin in July and continue through the end of August. Downtown Spokane Partnership has partnered with The Union, YMCA, Spokane Club and Pure Barre to offer everything from barre classes to Zumba at no cost to the public — just show up and join in.

Working out with a group might add that extra nudge of motivation to get moving after a long, sedentary day. If that doesn’t do it, the sunset view of the river will. The classes offer a variety of approaches to moving in a way that you can later practice at home — a pretty good deal for zero dollars.

The killer lineup of free workouts started much smaller with a series of outdoor yoga classes. Now, a couple of years later, the demand and generosity of local businesses have transformed that humble idea into a full-blown summer workout schedule, and partners like Numerica Credit Union have stepped up to sponsor the series.

“Two years ago we partnered with The Union yoga studio to offer lunchtime yoga at the Parkade Plaza,” say Elisabeth Hooker, Marketing & Programming Manager at Downtown Spokane Partnership. Last year, the classes moved to the roomier — and much prettier  — Spokane Tribal Gathering Place next to City Hall to accommodate high turnout. “I don’t think we had fewer than 80 participants each week,” she says. For people who stumbled upon it, a crowd of people working out together in public was quite a sight.

“It was kind of a surprise, especially in the middle of downtown,” she says. Some of those unsuspecting passers-by ended up participating in the class. That’s exactly the intent: Inviting the public to reimagine what downtown living can be. So, the organizers come well equipped to accommodate newcomers. “I think jumping right in to anything could be a little intimidating, but last year we had a lot of people walking by [attend], and The Union and Lululemon bring a lot of extra yoga mats,” Hooker says.

This year, Downtown Spokane Partnership has added three additional days and some variety to the mix. Most notably, they’ve added a family night with fitness activities for kids. “On Mondays, we’re going to be offering Pure Barre. Tuesdays is going to be more of a rotating evening, so it can be anything from Zumba, it can be tribal dance [or] it can be hula hoop. Whatever the flavor of the day will be. Wednesdays will be yoga with The Union, still, and Thursdays we’ll be partnering with the YMCA, so it’ll be more like family activities.”

Workouts begin at 7:15 p.m., giving participants a chance to find parking after meters turn off and make their way to the plaza, and will last about an hour. All classes are beginner friendly, and Hooker recommends taking any activity at one’s own pace to avoid injury. Trained instructors will be there to help answer questions and offer lower-impact options. “It’s definitely for everybody,” she says.

Downtown Spokane Partnership’s overall aim is to increase the vibrancy of the downtown area as a place to work and live. In addition to offering community fitness opportunities and supporting other community events, the non-profit organization administers downtown’s Business Improvement District funding by operating the area’s Clean Team and Security Ambassador Program. For Hooker, the classes are as much about building appreciation of Spokane’s downtown as they are about fitness.

“Seeing 200 people ‘downward dog’ all at once is pretty impressive, and it’s a really beautiful location. I mean, the sun is setting,” she says. “As people would walk by, I’d hear such positive things about our community.” Visit for details and the full class schedule. //


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